Nicholas of Japan
Our father among the saints Nicholas of Japan, Equal to the Apostles (August 1, 1836 – February 3, 1912), brought Orthodoxy to Japan. He was sent to Japan as a missionary by the Church of Russia. He worked tirelessly among the Japanese people and established there the Church of Japan. His feast day is February 3.
Nicholas was born Ivan Kasatkin in Berezovsky village, Volsk district, in the province of Smolensk. There his father, Dmitri, served as a deacon. When the child was five, his mother died. The deacon’s family was big and very poor. Despite that young Ivan was sent to the Belsk Theological School and later to the Smolensk Theological Seminary.
In 1857, Ivan, one of the best students, was sent to study in the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, where he demonstrated remarkable talents. When Ivan was about to finish his studies, his future mission—to preach the Orthodox faith in Japan—was revealed by Divine Providence.
The Russian consul in Japan sent a request to the Holy Synod (later forwarded to the Academy), asking for a pastor "who would be useful both as a spiritual director and a scholar and whose private life would give a good idea of our clergy not only to Japanese, but also to foreigners." He filed a petition to Bishop Nectarius, the rector, asking to profess him and to appoint him to the Russian Consulate in Japan.
On June 24, 1860, Bishop Nectarius professed Ivan Kasatkin with the name of Nicholas in the academic church of the Twelve Apostles. On June 29, the day of Apostles Peter and Paul, monk Nicholas was ordained hierodeacon, and on June 30, when the Synaxis of the Twelve Apostles was celebrated, he became hieromonk.
Remarkable were the bishop's words of blessing of the young monk's new mission: "You are supposed to live your ascetic life outside the monastery. You will have to leave your homeland and to serve God in a country that is distant and unfaithful. Along with the cross of an ascetic you must take your staff of a pilgrim, along with monastic exploits you must embark on an apostolic mission!"
Early Years in Japan
In June 1860, hieromonk Nicholas set off for his duty station in the town of Hakodate, taking along the icon of Smolensk Mother of God. On his way to Japan, he met the renowned bishop of the Russian Church, St Innocent (Veniaminov), Archbishop of Kamchatka, the Kurile and Aleutian Islands (later Metropolitan of Moscow), called the Apostle of America and Siberia. In Nikolaevsk-on-Amur, he learned from the elder missionary’s experience all that was necessary to continue his apostolic deeds “even to the end of the earth.